QUETTA – In a positive turn of events, trade has resumed at the Pakistan-Afghan border following a temporary disruption of new visa rules imposed by Pakistan earlier.
Islamabad had made it compulsory that the truckers crossing the border should have a passport and visa instead of simply showing the national Identity Card; however, the authorities have now agreed that an Identity Card was enough at least for two weeks more.
The negotiations between officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Afghan officials resulted in an agreement under which it was decided to extend the visa relaxation for two more weeks for Afghan drivers.
The visa rules prompted the closure of trade between the two countries as Kabul was furious over the visa regime and even denied permission to truckers to pass.
The agreement comes despite that the Pakistani government has already delayed the implementation of the new rule twice.
The agreement was confirmed by Afghan officials who said the issue would be resolved on a permanent basis. The ties between the two countries hit rock bottom in October when Pakistan decided to expel illegal immigrants, a move seen as targeting Afghans who have been residing in the country for decades now.
About 340,000 Afghans have been deported or voluntarily repatriated so far and Islamabad has time and again affirmed that only Afghans who have passports and visas will be allowed to enter the country, ending a decades-old tradition of allowing entry on the basis of national identity cards.
Afghanistan relies heavily on neighboring Pakistan for imports, but Pakistan complains that the duty-free mechanism is impacting its economic growth and costing it millions of dollars each year.
The federal government also cites security concerns for tightening the rules though the Afghan government denies any involvement in terror activities in Pakistan and says that extremism is a domestic affair.